People thought I was crazy for buying and selling used items –Akingboye

Abimbola Akingboye

Abimbola Akingboye is the Chief Executive Officer, 3A Auction House. In this interview with Eric Dumo, he speaks about his early childhood, inspiration and how he got into the business of auctioneering

What was childhood like for you?

I was a typical young boy growing up in Battersea, South London. I relocated to the United Kingdom at a young age but even while in Nigeria; I was always family-oriented with some bit of stubbornness.

Growing up in an African household, you can imagine the number of beatings that I received at times. But one thing that I would say that made me to stand out anywhere was my passion and staunch refusal to let anyone trample on my rights. It may sound strange but I always had the guts to fight for what was rightfully mine.

 At that stage of your life, you must have lots of ambitions for the future, tell us some of them?

I always had the dream to one day become a doctor or pilot like many other children at the time, though it is still in the works at the moment even though as a pastime now.

I also always had an eye for quality and that led me to seek a career in both human resource management and at some point, project management. I would look out for the best in anyone or any situation until proven wrong.

 Did your family background influence the type of dreams you had as a young boy?

Absolutely. Like I said, I was always family-oriented and that affected the way I relate with strangers. There’s always some level of good in everyone. However, I am quick to switch when I sense I may be taken for a ride.

My late mother’s never ending patience with people also helped me develop a desire to proffer solutions as much as I could. She was a selfless being and was always bent on offering assistance; so yes, I would say that influenced me a lot. Every aspect of business I have ventured into through the years has been all about providing solutions and my upbringing has played a major role in this.

 For you, what was the experience like as a student in school?

I had a bit of adjusting to do after relocating to the UK, but it was quick and I soon settled in. School was quite an experience; there was a bit of attempted bullying but I never let myself to be conquered. I gave as much as I got.

I engaged in a lot of odd jobs while on holiday to make some extra money as well and I believe that shaped my mind for business from an early age. I am constantly shaping my business not only into what it should be, but also what it should not, based on experience.

 What influenced your decision to go into auctioneering business?

Back in the UK and on my trips to the United States of America, I would attend auctions with the hopes of finding a good lot: be it a car or a property. I and a few friends would work on these items, renovate them to almost as good as new, and resell for profit. At the end of the day, we would have made our capital and some extra profit to re-invest at another auction.

Upon relocation to Nigeria in 2010, I realised there was no such opportunity here and even where auctions were being done, it was more of an ‘assignment’ of lots to interested parties and friends. It was basically about who you knew. It hit me that this was an untapped resource that could greatly boost our economy in providing avenues for the naira to be circulated. Those with the funds would be able to easily locate assets whose owners are eager to dispose while they in turn would employ the services of artisans to renovate these assets to their tastes either for reuse or for sale. It is a win-win for everyone. I began to do my research on it and after a few years, 3A Auction House is the result.

 Did people try to discourage you from going into the business when you were about to start?

Not just people, myself included. You start to wonder if Nigeria is ready for innovation and growth. I remember my wife telling me of someone’s reaction when she tried to tell her about auctioning in Nigeria. This person had lived in the UK and bought at a few auctions but was adamant about never buying in Nigeria, stating that she could not trust Nigerians not to swindle her. The trick is to remember why you ventured into it and stick to your guns, no matter what.

 The business of auctioning is mostly done by old men in Nigeria. As a young man in the industry, aren’t you intimidated by the older ones?

I don’t believe any industry should be determined or characterised by age. In the UK and elsewhere in the world, auctions are a major means of building the economy; properties are bought by men and women, young and old, and renovated to be resold for huge profit. And like I said earlier, they are indirectly creating jobs for the many interior designers, carpenters, painters and construction workers who work for them. So, for me age was never going to be a barrier.

 How have you been able to surmount the challenges you have faced so far in the industry?

The support and response of Nigerians to auctions has been amazing. It is true, indeed, that you never know until you begin. But the process of enlightenment and education on its benefits are on-going. We continue to face this challenge and others headlong as we advance.

Being a good looking man, ladies must throw themselves at you. How have you been able to deal with this?

Right from a young age, I developed a love and more importantly, a fear for and of God. It is one thing to be an object of attention, but it is another to know who you are and where you are going. You then tend to be very careful. Like my Pastor would say, “Voom” is better than “statement”, meaning to flee is better than to begin to explain your intentions. With this knowledge, I try not to be distracted by anything, not even women.

 As a stylish man, what informs your fashion choices?

I try to be comfortable at all times, doing my best to look sharp round the clock. There is no room for shoddiness when it comes to my attire, no matter what it is.

 What is your most treasured fashion item?

My friends say I look weird in casual clothes because I am almost always in a suit. So, my blazers would probably be my most treasured item, along with my wrist watches and perfumes.

 If you must go on holiday, where would be your preferred destination?

I wouldn’t say there is one; I try to find new places to visit as often as possible. But I rather enjoyed Dubai. I visit it regularly to draw inspiration.  It’s a place that has inspired me to believe anything can be achieved.

 How do you relax in your free time?

Travelling. I have developed a love for discovering new places and always jump at an opportunity to jet off. I also love music and adventure, so you’ll probably catch me listening to music, jumping out of a plane 13,000 feet or jumping off a cliff (bungee jumping).

For you, what does a typical weekend look like?

My wife runs the event production arm of our company (3A Event Solutions) so on weekends, you will probably find me at one event or the other handling quality control and ensuring our standards are met by vendors.

Our business is family-based; so all hands are required on deck. My experience in project management also helps out on such occasions.

 Are there specific pieces of advice that your parents gave you that have guided your every step today?

I don’t remember my parents giving me a particular advice but their lives were a perfect example for me while growing up. They were loved by everyone, had integrity, were trusted, selfless, responsible and hospitable, to name just a few.

I grew up naturally becoming a good man from the examples I saw from them daily. Their lives automatically shaped mine positively.

 What do you miss most about your childhood?

I miss the freedom to run wild and free! Adulthood comes with a lot of responsibilities, but you just have to adjust as you go along. I look back sometimes with nostalgia on an eventful childhood.

 What would you say are some of the biggest lessons life has taught you so far?

I have learnt to always declare and confess what I want to see or become. Words don’t die!  As a result, I have personal confessions I declare daily. Life won’t always give you what you deserve but only what you fight for.

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